“Young people, stay at home” is what the Archbishop of Addis Ababa, the capital and largest city of Ethiopia, in Eastern Africa, has told his country’s youth, exhorting them not to emigrate to Europe.
Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel is only the last of a long list of African Catholic Bishops and Cardinals to have warned Africans about the problems and dangers that immigration poses to the immigrants themselves and the countries they leave behind, as well as to the receiving European countries.
From Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, one of most prominent cardinals of the Catholic Church, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, to Nigerian Cardinals Francis Arinze and John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, to the Regional Episcopal (Bishops’) Conference of West Africa, to name a few, the message and warnings are the same.
Italy has been one of the countries most affected by this problem, due to its vicinity to the North African coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
We are obviously not talking here of a limited, controlled flow of migration, but of a movement of populations of Biblical proportions, illegal and unrestricted.
The idea that the poverty of a part of the planet or even more of an entire continent can be resolved by migration is so wildly unrealistic to make you wonder if the people who believe in it are living in an Alice-in-Wonderland world of fantasy.
Africa has more than 1.2 billion inhabitants. How could they all be moving to Europe?
They cannot, and do not. It is in fact only the ones who are better off than the rest of the population, in many different ways, who can leave.
First of all, they must be richer economically otherwise they wouldn’t have the money to pay the people smugglers, whose services are certainly not cheap.
Second, they are the persons who are stronger, generally young and males, often with better skills, and certainly with most initiative who abandon the sinking ship: exactly those who are in the best position to help their country out of poverty.
If we consider the situation of Italy, it is sheer madness because there’s no point in talking about “accoglienza”, namely welcoming and hospitality, when the nation has nothing to offer. Italy has not enough jobs for its youth, particularly the most educated, who leave in drones, and the level of “brain drain” is very high.
Unemployment rate in Italy among young people aged between 15 and 24 in the second half of 2019 was no less than 28.6%, almost 1 in 3. These are the figures of ISTAT, Istituto nazionale di statistica, the official statistics research agency.
How can an immigrant, just arrived, without connections, with no ties to the community, often without speaking the language to a good level, hope to find a decent job that even the Italian, local boys and girls cannot find?
The best he can find is temporary, precarious occupation, but more often than not African immigrants end up selling wares in the streets or (as in my hometown of Viareggio which is on the sea) on the beaches, likely without a permit, or waiting outside supermarkets/hypermarkets to get the euro coins for returning the trolley.
In Viareggio, which is a very popular seaside resort, they have shown a lot of initiative: on weekend evenings, where many people come from neighbouring cities for a night in town, it’s nearly impossible for a car to find a parking spot in the centre, so these black guys wait standing around until they find a parking space and then direct a car to it, hoping for an almost certain tip.
Another source of income for migrants is illegal drug peddling, particularly worrisome in areas like the Pineta di Ponente, the vast pinewood in downtown Viareggio where lots of children convene for rides on merry-go-rounds and the many other amusements there.
No possibility for integration, and in fact many people, for example from Senegal, the African country that sends most immigrants to Italy, return home.
So on emigration, the Archbishop of Addis Ababa cardinal Souraphiel, in a recent interview, was right in indicating that the priority “should be to help these people stay in their country”, promoting their training.